Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

High highs and low lows with Josh James

June 9, 2009

The most recent release from Tulsa musician Josh James, Asbestos Honey, has some really great moments and some not-so-great moments. James has also released an EP and another full-length LP with backing musicians called Painted in a Corner.

Asbestos Honey is a mix of pleasant, emotive songs with catchy melodies and also, unfortunately, some songs that are rather boring. For example, the album’s opener should normally be the place for an attention-grabbing number. But “Truth” is sadly wishy-washy and forgettable. The album improves vastly with the next song, “Rock Alone,” which has a bit of a Ryan Adams alt-country influence. The only problem is James’ overly breathy and strained vocals. If he loosened up a little and maybe didn’t try so hard (or at least sounded like he wasn’t trying really hard), the songs on Asbestos Honey would be much easier to listen to. And yet, the vocals on some songs, like the rockin’ “Ball and Chain” that has a fun falsetto vocal line, and the slow, folky “1829,” are much cleaner, clearer, and less self-conscious.

Josh James incorporates a wide range of genres, including country, folk, rock, and indie. The best songs on this album are the ones that have strong choruses that set them apart. The almost-anthem-esque “New Beginnings” and the upbeat, funky “Ball and Chain” are both examples of this. However, listeners can get lost in-between choruses on Asbestos Honey due to verses that can sometimes run together.

James just recently added a backing band called True Story with Adam Hewett on lead guitar and Sean Wilson on drums. Check out his schedule for upcoming shows around Oklahoma on his myspace.

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Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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